By Jeff Grant, The Catholic Sun

Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the Crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ as payment for the sin of humankind, has for two decades in the Diocese of Phoenix also been a time for Catholics to gather publicly to pray for the lives of the unborn, as well as the mothers contemplating ending their pregnancies and the workers performing those procedures.

That is why on April 15, under the bright sunshine and 85-degree heat outside Planned Parenthood’s Eugie Avenue clinic, more than 350 individuals, many clutching rosaries, on their knees, heads bowed, lifted their voices and hearts to God for those who cannot.

Led by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, participants prayed the five decades of the Rosary for Life and were urged to continue asking God to change hearts and minds for life.
Glendale police estimated the turnout at around 360, a number in line with past Good Friday rosaries there.

“This is where the innocent are killed, and our law doesn’t protect them in any way,” said Bishop Olmsted after the Rosary. “So, we need to stand here and lift up this great injustice and pray for justice and also with hope there will be changed hearts,” he said.

“Jesus’ death was a great injustice. (but) He overcame the world. That’s why we come here full of hope because we come with faith in Him,” the bishop continued.

No abortions were being performed at the clinic during the Rosary. In fact, the building was closed. There were no vehicles in its lot and no visible activity outside. But abortions, both chemical and surgical, have been carried out there for years.

“What goes on inside there is horrific, said Lynn Dyer, who led one of the decades of the Rosary, and attends Mater Misericordiae Church and Most Holy Trinity Church, both in Phoenix. “I can’t wrap my head around the fact they are killing innocent human beings in there. If they were killing animals, there would be thousands of people out here, protesting.”

“It’s a lack of respect for life in our society today. We have to pray, pray, pray we can turn this around,” added Dyer, who is part of a volunteer group that transports “turnarounds” – women who change their minds about having an abortion.

“Our Lady asked us so many times to pray the Rosary, and so many miracles have happened because of that,” she continued.

The recently concluded 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign, a regular program of prayer, sidewalk counseling and public outreach, produced fruitful results outside the Eugie Avenue site. According to Glendale 40 Days Campaign leader Tammy O’Connor, a dozen women arriving at the clinic over the course of the campaign decided against going ahead with their abortions.

O’Connor was thankful for all the “prayer warriors” who supported the campaign, which opened in early March with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Olmsted at St. Mary’s Basilica downtown.

This year’s rosary took place amid increased optimism among pro-life forces that the Supreme Court of the United States may be ready to reverse its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion.

Overturning Roe v. Wade would send the issue back to the states.

Over two-thirds of the 50 are now poised to enforce their own laws – either allowing or banning the procedure. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in late March signed a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of gestation. Florida’s governor signed a similar ban April 14, days after Oklahoma’s governor signed a law making it a felony to perform the procedure in that state. A Texas law enforcing a ban after 6 weeks of gestation withstood a state challenge in March after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state was the proper forum for Texas’ case.

Some pro-life advocates credit the shift in support for life in part to young adults.
On Friday, a significant portion of the crowd appeared to be under age 35. There also were a number of families with very young children, something Bishop Olmsted points to as a positive sign for the future of the pro-life movement.

“I’m delighted with all the little children here today. That’s really hopeful. It shows beautiful families, mothers and fathers who really want their children to know about this and pray for an end to it,” he said.

Zoe Jenen, 19, of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Phoenix, felt being there was a good example to others her age.

“There are not a lot of young people who are pro-life and (it is important) to show other young people you can be young and pro-life. It’s emotionally moving for anyone to see or hear a baby’s heartbeat (in an ultrasound). You can’t hear or watch and say, ‘That’s not human.’”

Matthew Engelthaler, who oversees St. Thomas the Apostle’s Pro-Life Group, brought his son, Jacob, 3. Engelthaler said prayer remains perhaps the powerful tool in the cause.

“Christ died on the Cross for all of us. The Crucifixion represents the opening of Heaven, and we representing the part of humanity that doesn’t get to experience it here on Earth.”